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The Geese are Coming!  The Geese are Coming!

...and so will the Visitors!

Snow and Ross's Geese by Pam Rendall-Bass

Blackland Prairie Master Naturalist Nancy Cushion gives refuge information to visitors.

Do you enjoy meeting all kinds of people from all over the world, and like-minded people in our area?  If yes, consider joining our team of Visitor Center Volunteers.  You will greet refuge guests, distribute maps and other refuge information, and make sales in the gift shop using our new and improved, super-easy cash register.

Flexible, choose-your-own shifts are available every day of the week: Monday through Saturday 9 AM to 12:30 PM and 12:30 to 4:00 PM, Sunday 1:00 to 5:00 PM.  Training is provided.  Contact Us if interested.

White-faced Ibis Population Spikes at Hagerman

By Linda Micco Richmond

Photo by Ananthanarayanan Thiagarajan Kiran Photography

From a distance or on a cloudy day, the flocks of White-faced Ibis that appear in late summer at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge appear to be a plain, almost black bird that could easily be overlooked.

Up close, when they’re positioned in bright sunlight, the allure of the White-faced Ibis becomes evident: their feathers are a rich maroon and their tail and wings shimmer with iridescent bronze, gold, pewter and green. The beautifully colored birds have very long, downward curved bills.

The White-faced Ibis is a fairly big bird, weighing as much as a little more than one pound and measuring up to 22 inches long. White-faced Ibises are usually seen in flocks, both when nesting in colonies and when foraging. Adults of breeding age are easy to spot because of their bright pink legs and V-shaped sharp white patch around their eyes. The juvenile White-faced Ibis has neither marking.

Photo by Pam Rendall-Bass

“What is interesting to me is the increase in numbers of White-faced Ibis we’ve seen during the last few years,” said Jack Chiles, Master Naturalist, who has conducted the weekly bird census at Hagerman for the last 34 years. “Typically in past years we’d see small numbers, or maybe 50 or 75 at most on any given day. We’d very seldom see 100,” Chiles said.

Yet in 2022 Chiles and his census crew counted 476 White-faced Ibis at the refuge on September 26. This year, the population peaked at 320 individuals at 

Hagerman NWR on Sept. 24, and it’s a trend he hopes to see continue. Most years, a few of the White-Faced Ibis begin to trickle into the refuge in late April to feed and rest. Most of these spectacular birds don’t arrive until late summer, after they have finished nesting and their fledglings have learned to fly. Their numbers peak in late September.

Only on rare occasions does a Glossy Ibis, a very similar coastal bird that does not have the white V-shape marking around their eyes, make an appearance on these shores. So how does one tell the difference between a juvenile White-faced Ibis and a Glossy Ibis? Chiles has consulted with identification experts who’ve concluded that it is almost impossible to tell the difference in the field.

Photo by Chris Balsamo

The White-Faced Ibis feed by lowering their long-curved bill into soil or mud to feel for the small invertebrates on which they prefer to dine, such as earthworms, snails, insects, or crustaceans, especially crayfish. They also sweep their bills through the water to trap small fish or scoop up a clam or frog. They even catch prey by sight, plucking a grasshopper or beetle off a low-lying shrub.

“They eat just about anything they can catch,” Chiles pointed out. They share the marsh with other shorebirds, including egrets and herons, who all forage in the same spots during their stay at the Hagerman.

“When they’re in a flock feeding, they’re pretty noisy; it’s kind of a quack-quack sound,” 

Chiles said of the White-faced Ibis. They’re also known to whoop it up when foraging or flying. To some, their odd-sounding call might even be mistaken for an incredulous man’s laugh, a pig’s snort, or a goose.

The White-faced Ibis prefer freshwater ponds, marshes, or wetlands, which are often ephemeral and may dry up depending on the amount of rainfall or the season. In the United States, they live year-round only in Southern California and parts of the Gulf Coast: Southeastern Texas, and the Southernmost tips of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. In other locations, including at the Hagerman refuge, they visit only during certain times of year.

Photo by JP Nature Photography

Photo by Pam Rendall-Bass

Another interesting feature about the White-faced Ibis is that during mating season they sometimes build floating nests upon which to lay their eggs and raise their young. They tend to favor water that is less than three feet deep, and construct the nest of dead reeds, lined with grasses. They might also build nests in vegetation or trees. The White-faced Ibis do not nest at Hagerman NWR, where they stay only for a short while as a migratory rest stop before moving to more Southern locations for winter and nesting.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the numbers of White-faced Ibis are dropping throughout North America. Threats to their survival include the draining of wetlands where they live and the widespread use of pesticides. They are currently listed as threatened in Texas. The federal government is awaiting more information about the bird before deciding if they should be given federal status as a threatened species.

The White-faced Ibis enjoy the 200 acres of shallow marshes at the Hagerman refuge as a feeding and resting stopover on their migration journey. They don’t stay long: as of late October, most are gone, Chiles said. Some years a few stragglers might stay until mid-November.

Already arriving to take their place for their turn at the marsh are the migratory Snow, Ross’, and Greater white-fronted Geese. Soon there will be thousands, as many as 6,000 or 7,000 geese on a given day, who find food in the bright green fields of winter wheat.

Photo by Mary Elford Hulshouser

Refuge Update:

Though refuge lands are open from sunrise until sunset every day of the year,t he Visitor Center is open Monday through Saturday 9-4, Sunday 1-5.  It's a great time to visit the refuge!

Archery Deer Hunt   (Map of hunt on Page 4) 

Nov 04 – Nov 06, Nov 17 – Nov 19, Dec 01 – Dec 03, 2023

CLOSED  Due To Hunt: Haller's Haven and Raasch Hiking trails; Godwin, Goode and Meyers units.

OPEN To Public: Meadow Pond, Harris Creek and Crow Hill trails; Harris Creek, Big Mineral, and Sandy units.

NOTE: Hikes on Haller's Haven and Raasch Trails should be completed by 2:30 PM the day before a hunt.

For more information, visit Texas Parks and Wildlife

Recent Sightings:

Dainty Sulphur by Laurie Sheppard

Franklin's Gulls by Laurie Sheppard

Northern Harrier by Caleb Darling

Eastern Amberwing Dragonfly

By Pam Rendall-Bass

Upcoming Activities:

The Friends of Hagerman is Hosting

14 Family Friendly Events in November!

Calendar of  Events 

The Friends of Hagerman NWR: Working Towards Their Mission by Sponsoring the Refuge Roundup

Photos by Lea Watson

The Friends of Hagerman Online Auction was a tremendous success. 

Thank you to all who participated.

If you missed our annual fundraiser but would like to contribute, please click here.

The New Butterfly Garden Bridge

The Friends of Hagerman Outdoor Crew of volunteers replaced the bridge with a new level platform that is ADA compliant. Under the direction of our Deputy Refuge Manager, Paul Balkenbush, the Friends of Hagerman covered the expenses for the new bridge. The old bridge was demolished by volunteers: Larry Vargus, John Van Bebber, Derek Miller, Mike Grubb, and Bryon Clark. The new bridge was fabricated with a steel platform built by our maintenance staff of Rusty Daniel and Caleb Derrick. Then our Outdoor Crew and Paul Balkenbush installed the Trex platform. What a great team!

The perfect Christmas gift for the bird lover in your family:

The Adopt-A-Nestbox Sale Has Begun

Every year beginning the Friends of Hagerman gives the public an opportunity to support the Eastern Bluebird population and learn all about them via the Adopt-A-Nestbox Program.

Participants of the Adopt-A-Nestbox program will be invited to name their adopted nestbox, and visit it as often as they like. All nestboxes included in the program are easily accesible via a stroll along Raasch or Harris Creek Hiking Trails.

Participants will receive an email every week during nesting season with a picture of the inside of the nestbox and an explanation of its stages of development. An adopted nestbox makes a great Christmas gift!

The price of $35 per nestbox helps to support the expense of maintaining the impressive Bluebird trail of 45 nestboxes throughout the refuge. There is a limit of three nestboxes per person.

Purchase an Adopted Nest On sale now while supplies last--they go fast!

Calling All Bird Feeder Watchers:  

The Christmas At-Home Bird Count Needs You!

Photo by Pam Rendall-Bass

Help bird researchers from the comfort of your living room! 

To participate, simply observe birds at your feeders on Saturday, December 16th. Keep track of the largest number of each species seen at one time. For example, if you see 3 Chickadees at breakfast, 5 at noon and 4 in the afternoon you would report 5 Chickadees.

Send your results plus your name, location and time spent looking for birds to:

Wayne Meyer at wmeyer@austincollege.edu or leave voice mail at 903-813-2254 (E-mail is preferred.)

The Christmas Count circle includes the following communities:

Preston Peninsula, Highpoint, Pottsboro, Mill Creek, Sherwood Shores, Cedar Bayou, Cedar Mills, Walnut Creek, Gordonville, Big Mineral, Paradise Cove, Flowing Wells, Hagerman, Basin Springs, Grayson County Airport, Fink, Locust, and Shay and Enos OK.

The Christmas Bird Count: Join Us for a Day of Birding!

Photo by Bill Powell

The public is once again welcome to join this annual event, to aid ornithologists in their research and meet fellow birders.

Participants will be divided into groups and will explore the birds of the refuge and surrounding area. This year's count will encompass an area 15 miles in diameter: all the way into Oklahoma in the north, Grayson Airport in east and Sherwood shores/Cedar Mills in northwest.

Dress for the weather and meet at the Visitor Center at 7am. Stay as long as you like, or until sundown. Bring water, lunch and/or snacks.

Register to be kept informed of changes if necessary. Registration is optional.

Birding with Jack: The Weekly Bird Census

Left to Right: Mike Petrick, Nancy Riggs, Jack Chiles and Terry Goode

Each Tuesday a team of experienced birders, including Master Naturalist Jack Chiles, traverse 35 miles of refuge roads and hiking trails, documenting every bird they encounter. This Bird Census is reported to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology for use in research, and each week we will bring you a link to their actual bird count, and a summary of their adventures.

October 31, 2023  Complete Bird Census List

76 species, Observers: Jack Chiles, Mike Petrick, Laurie Sheppard and Terry Goode.

American Avocets settling in to feed

Red-headed Woodpecker with an insect



Our census today, the last day of October, started out with the temperature hovering near the freezing mark. The ground is very wet due to the abundance of recent rain. The wheat fields look exceptionally good and the white geese are starting to arrive. There should be plenty for them to eat in November. We counted approximately 430 white geese today the majority being Ross's Geese. There were thousands of Franklin's Gull present today and we estimated a...

See the rest of Jack's notes and the latest Bird Census Results       


Saturday, November 11, 2023 at 10:00 AM in the Visitor Center

The 2023 Friends of Hagerman NWR Annual Nature Photography Contest winners will be announced.

The Second Saturday program starts at 10:00 AM and the presentation is Waterfowl by Dr. Wayne Meyer. After the main program, we will present a slideshow of the photo contest winning photographs and awards will be presented. We're sure to see some spectacular photos by beginner and intermediate/advanced photographers.

The Friends of Hagerman NWR Photo Club Meeting:

Slideshows; How to Use a Camera in Manual Mode with Larry Howard

Saturday, November 18th, 1:00 to 3:00 PM in the Visitor Center.

We have a variety of presentations for this meeting.

We will present a slideshow of the winning photographs of the 2023 Friends of Hagerman NWR Annual Nature Photography Contest.

A photo scavenger hunt was held on October 28, 2023, on the grounds of Hagerman NWR. We will present a slideshow of participants' photos taken for each of the scavenger hunt categories. We'll see some interesting photos!

We'll take a short break.

Larry Howard will give a presentation on How to Use a Camera in Manual Mode. His presentation will last about 1-1/2 hours.

Larry will be covering the advantages of using your camera in manual mode to optimize control of camera and/or subject movement, control of depth of field, and exposure. All brands of cameras are welcome. Decisions about whether depth of field or movement takes priority for the shot will be discussed.

Larry received his B.S. and M.S. from East Texas State University in Commerce, Texas. He has been a professor of photography since 1973, and has been teaching at Richland College and Eastfield College in Dallas since 1976. He has taught photography classes in portrait, weddings, nature, wildlife, food, architecture, and photojournalism. He is a contributing journalist of the Denison Herald newspaper. Larry lives in Tom Bean, Texas, with his wife and they have been married 55 years. He is a fifth generation Texan and an army veteran.

Photo club members, guests, and visitors are welcome to attend meetings. You do not need to be a photo club member to attend.

If you have questions regarding this event or about the photo club, contact:

Photo Club Leader, Lisa Wilkins

Mobile 972-658-8544

Email FOHphotoclub@gmail.com

Sponsor the Friends of Hagerman NWR with a Membership

The Friends of Hagerman NWR Foundation is a 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is to instill reverence, respect, and conservation of our wild creatures and habitats through supporting environmental education, recreational activities, and programs of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Sponsors Enable the Friends to…

  • Provide at least 12 free, family friendly, nature-oriented activities every month
  • Provide the refuge with volunteers to plant wheat for the geese, mow the trails, pick up trash, paint and perform other chores assigned by refuge staff
  • Develop Second Saturday programs to educate the general public about wildlife conservation
  • Sponsor “The Refuge Rocks!” nature programs for children

  • Maintain the beautiful butterfly garden—a Monarch Waystation that has attracted species new to Grayson County

  • Facilitate Eastern Bluebird populations by maintaining and monitoring 45 nestboxes throughout the refuge

  • Provide interesting educational tram tours of the refuge via the “Wildlife Explorer”

  • Produce “The Featherless Flyer” newsletter and other publications to promote conservation

  • Maintain friendsofhagerman.com  website 

Join Today!   Memberships available for $10

Join Cindy Steele for:

The Refuge Rocks! Programs for Children

    • April 20, 2024
    • 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
    • Hagerman NWR Visitor Center
    • 9

    Trees are an important part of our world.  They provide wood for building and pulp for making paper.  They provide habitats (homes) for all sorts of insects, birds and other animals.  Many types of fruits and nuts come from trees - including apples, oranges, peaches, walnuts and pecans.  Even the sap of trees is useful as food for insects and for making maple syrup -- yum!  Come join us on April 20 for a free class to learn about trees. We'll be going out on the trail to measure the ages of trees and to make bark rubbings.  The attendees will make a fun tree craft to take home.  For ages 5-10.  Registration Required.   Photo credit:  Cindy Steele

    • May 18, 2024
    • 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
    • Hagerman NWR Visitor Center
    • 26

    Calling all bug and insect lovers!  Buzz in to learn about our creepy crawly bug friends in this Refuge Rocks program. Explore the magical realm of insects that are nature's superheroes. From ladybugs to praying mantises, learn about these tiny creatures' incredible powers and how they help our gardens thrive. Children will discover bugs' vital role in maintaining balance in our ecosystems. Get ready to unleash your inner bug enthusiast as we uncover the secrets of these fascinating critters and their essential contributions to our world.

    In this program, we’ll learn about the superheroes of the insect world through a short lesson, craft, and fun activities!  Come join us on May 18 for a free class for youth ages 5-10.  For ages 5-10.  Registration Required.   Photo credit:  C. Steele/Canva Pro

Puddles' Craft Corner


By Cindy Steele, Master Naturalist

The Magic of Leaves Changing Colors in the Fall!


No pictures to show


Welcome back to Puddles’ Craft Corner! Fall is in the air! It’s time for pumpkin spice and apple cider donuts. The magic of the leaves changing color is the telltale sign that Fall is officially here. Autumn is a perfect time to harvest some fun learning and explore new projects as a family. There’s so much to do with Fall colored leaves than just rake them up. Although, raking them up can be some super family fun! If you are looking for something to do with your family this Autumn, check out this article. It’s packed with projects, activities, lessons, and most importantly, fun.

You may have experienced a tree turning from green to yellow during the fall. But did you know that the yellow colors that suddenly appear were actually in the leaf the entire time?

It’s true! The green chlorophyll we see most of the year masks the yellow color, which can only be seen in the fall when the chlorophyll breaks down. Green color in leaves is from chlorophyll, which is what leaves use to make their own food. As the days get shorter in autumn, trees sense that winter is approaching. Because their leaves would not survive the cold, dark days of winter, deciduous trees decide to let their leaves go. Therefore, deciduous trees stop producing new chlorophyll.

The chlorophyll already in the leaves breaks down, revealing the other pigments inside the leaves that were previously masked by the green chlorophyll, particularly yellow and orange. (In contrast to yellow and orange pigments, red pigments are actually created after the fact when sugars in the leaves react with other chemicals to form the red pigments.)

Location, elevation, temperature, sun exposure, and nutrient content of the soil all have an impact on the color the leaves will turn. Thus, the leaves on a tree may turn yellow...

Junior Ranger Program: Advanced and Intermediate

Complete a scavenger hunt, a leaf rubbing and identify a few common birds to become a Junior Ranger.  At the end of the journey report back to the Visitor Center where you will be guided through the pledge (above) and receive your merit of completion. 

Print the Hagerman-specific Activity Packet  or pick one up in the Visitor Center.

The Junior Ranger Pledge

As a Junior Ranger at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge,

I pledge to protect outdoor creatures small, big and huge.

To keep the water, air and land clean.

To make enjoying nature a routine.

I will share my new skills with family and friends.

When people and nature work together, everybody wins!

Come, Take a Tour on the Wildlife Explorer!

Enjoy a ninety minute tram tour of Wildlife Drive aboard our open-air Wildlife Explorer.  Learn about the fascinating history of the displaced town of Hagerman while watching for an abundance of wildlife.

  • Lots of stops for bird-watching and photography.   
  • Guided tours are weather permitting and seating is limited. 
  • Standbys are accepted if space permits. 
  • Recommended for age 6 - adult. 
  • Bring your binoculars or borrow ours.
  • Meet at the visitor center 15 minutes before departure. 
  • School, church, families or other groups of 6 to 8 people may request a special group tram tour on days other than regularly scheduled tram tour days 
 Group Tram Tour

Register for a Tram Tour Today!

The Little Sit

Sunrise Bird Count and Photo Opportunity

Photo: Sunrise at the Little Sit by Laurie Sheppard

Meet Jack and the Bird Census Team and learn how to identify the birds of North Texas while enjoying the beautiful sunrise over Lake Texoma! Modeled after Cornell's national "Big Sit" event, a group of dedicated birders invite you to join them at sunrise to conduct a bird count as multiple species fly to the water and the surrounding land to feed.  Leaders will bring spotting scopes and will provide tips for identification of the many species you will see.

This event lasts a couple of hours, but all are welcome to come and go as they please. Participants are advised to bring a chair, binoculars and water. 

The First Saturday of every month, beginning 30 minutes before sunrise.

Location: H Pad, Sadler, Texas 76264 (H Pad is in Sadler, but it is part of the refuge) GPS Coordinates: 33.734961, -96.780582

Please register (optional) so we may inform you of unexpected changes. 

Click to enlarge map:

Early Bird Walk with Jack Chiles

Master Naturalist Jack Chiles will lead our Early Birding event, weather permitting. Bring binoculars or borrow ours.  Meet at the Visitor Center and return in time for the Second Saturday program.

Please Register (Optional) so we may inform you via email of unforseen changes/cancellations.

Photo by Jack Chiles

Second Saturday: Waterfowl with Dr. Wayne Meyer

and Photo Contest Awards

Saturday, November 11, 2023  at 10:00 AM in the Visitor Center 

Photo by Laurie Sheppard

As winter nears, the waterfowl for which Hagerman NWR was originally established are moving. In this presentation, you'll learn about all the geese and ducks that visit our refuge and why they come.

Dr. Wayne Meyer is Associate Professor of the Biology department at Austin College, where he has been teaching for 30 years. He started birding at 13 in Connecticut. In 1993 he finally achieved his life’s dream of being paid to look at birds when he joined the faculty of Austin College. He has birded both coasts of the U.S. extensively and now has spent a quarter century birding in Texas and Oklahoma. The proximity of Austin College to Hagerman NWR has made research on prairie birds easy and convenient and he has been studying song learning and singing in Painted Buntings for over a decade. Meyer is also a sought after speaker for Master Naturalist groups and a frequent speaker at the Friends of Hagerman NWR second Saturday programs.

After the program, winners of the annual photo contest will be announced, winning photos presented, and awards will be handed out.

Future Second Saturday Programs

Do You Like to Work Outside? The Refuge Needs You!

It takes a lot of people to have a beautiful garden!

The Wednesday Garden Team 

Love to work with native plants and meet other gardeners? Come and help us add plants, weed and mulch our beautiful butterfly garden. Garden Team volunteers get first dibs on thinned native plants as well as access to seeds and cuttings for propagation. 

Gardeners meet on most Wednesdays, but times vary.  Contact Us  to subscribe to the volunteer garden team weekly email. Provide own tools and gloves. Minimum age 18, or 16 if accompanied by parent/volunteer. 

Mowing and Refuge Beautification: The Work Crew

Do you enjoy working outside, mowing, sprucing up hiking trails, trimming and removing brush and general cleanup? Show your love for nature by joining the Outdoor Crew at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. Outdoor Crew volunteers meet on the First Tuesday and Fourth Saturday of every month.

Contact Us for exact times, dates and other details about joining the volunteer Work Crew.

Scouts welcome!

Thank You

To Our Contributors:

Linda Micco Richmond, Pam Rendall-Bass, Mary Elford Hulshouser , Chris Balsamo, JP Nature Photography, Ananthanarayanan Thiagarajan Kiran Photography, Caleb Darling, Lea Watson, Jack Chiles and Cindy Steele

Refuge Manager: Kathy Whaley

Deputy Refuge Manager: Paul Balkenbush

Visitor Services Manager: Spencer Beard 

Editors: Patricia Crain,  Laurie Sheppard

Friends of Hagerman NWR Foundation

6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, TX 75092

Phone: 903-786-2826

Contact Us  

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Events and activities hosted by the Friends of Hagerman are funded by donations and powered solely by volunteers.  There are no fees for admission to the refuge or parking; the refuge is open from sunrise to sunset every day of the year, drive on any road unless gated.

6465 Refuge Road

Sherman, TX 75092



Kroger: Stop by the customer service desk at Kroger and link your Kroger Card to the Friends of Hagerman: the Friends will get rewards for every dollar you spend, at no cost to you.

Please add friendsofhagerman@gmail.com to your contacts to ensure delivery of registration confirmations, account information and the Featherless Flyer

See you at the refuge!

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